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Critically Evaluate The Theoretical Perspectives Of The Psychology Of Happiness

1283 words - 6 pages

The dictionary describes happiness as a “state of well-being characterized by emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy”. However different people will receive “intense joy” from different things - happiness is subjective . The ability to create a formula for happiness has been attempted throughout history, to no avail. From Greek philosopher Epicurus and his notion of sensations create pleasure, up to Maslow (1943) and his hierarchy of needs. The pursuit of happiness has been one of mankind’s greatest struggles. Here I intend to evaluate the theories of psychologists on what makes people happy.

Psychology has often tended to focus on mental illness rather than mental ...view middle of the document...

Seven times a day for one week, participants were beeped randomly via a radio signal. The participant then completed a page of their booklet. Results collected helped support the flow theory.

A major strength is that this can be applied to many areas of life and most people have experience of exactly what the flow theory is, even if never studied. It has even leaked into everyday culture with phrases such as “in the zone”. The theory acknowledges that happiness is subjective and claims it’s not what task people are doing that makes them happy, it’s how engrossed in it they are.

Although accepted, there are critiques of the idea. The main being that it’s cultural biased, appearing to apply mainly to western, material societies. It would be interesting to see whether the same applies to eastern cultures, or even tribal societies. Furthermore, although Csíkszentmihályi described experiences felt when in a state of flow, he did not identify how one was to achieve flow. Therefore, even though the theory may be correct, interest along with striking the right balance between challenge and skills creates positive emotions, it still fails to inform us how to become engrossed. It may offer insight into happiness, but does not give us all the answers.

Another theory that offers us more answers is the Broaden-and-Build theory. The theory, developed by Fredrickson, argued that positive emotions pushed away immediate needs and stressors. Through a chain reaction, positive emotions could change a person’s mindset, i.e. the emotion of joy sparks the want to play, interest creates the want to explore etc. These wants push the individual to act developing skills that can be drawn upon later allowing the individual to cope with life stresses. This cycle of emotions/thoughts to action is called the thought–action repertoire. Through positive emotions one changes their thought–action repertoires becoming more creative, healthier and resilient individuals.

One strength is that a lot of research has been spent looking into this theory. Alice Isen has dedicated a lot of time into conducting experiments into this idea. With scientific experiments, results show that those who have more positive emotions generally have higher dopamine levels. Using global–local visual processing paradigms, it has been found that those who experience positive emotions have broader attention, while those experiencing negative have narrower attention. Scientific data produced to support this theory is a major strength as results are valid and reliable.

However, it talks of the benefits of being happy, but again, not how to achieve it. It appears that the Broaden-and-Build theory is only interested in talking about what being happy does biologically and mentally to us, not how to become happy.

Helson’s adaptation theory, suggests that happiness is based on contrast and habituation. We can only find an event happy if...

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